5 Steps for Forming New Habits (and What to Do When You Want to Quit)

by | Sat 19 Sep 2020

Many of us want help forming new habits in our lives but are confronted by fluffy, inspirational “advice” when we research how to really make a habit stick. 

The problem is, while inspiration is great, inspiration alone just isn’t enough. In addition, you need an actionable plan that accounts for your ups and downs during the habit-building process.

This 5 step habit-formation process will protect you from your stupid brain, who’s almost certainly going to try to stop your new habit from forming. 

Step 1: Choose Your Goal

It takes 66 days to form a habit. What new outcome do you want to see at the end of that time?

When choosing a new goal, remember that it needs to be both measurable and doable. For instance, if your goal is to get healthier by working out 2 hours every day, that is measurable, but probably NOT doable. 

When choosing a goal, ask yourself a few questions to design your new habit around your life, so it’s easy to adapt long-term:

  • Which days are your “on” days? 
  • Which days are your “off” days? 
  • How much time do you really have to set aside for this? 
  • What materials do you need?

When you think about the reality of your week, you can almost see where the new habit will fit into things. 

Now, you’ll be inspired when you set your goal, but life tends to get in the way of execution sometimes. That’s why you should always allow yourself 1 or 2 cheat days each week. 

You still need to live, after all! 

Step 2: Map Out Bumps in the Road

Your brain is constantly going to talk you down and distract you from your goal. Before your new habit is formed, it will try to resort to old ways.

Your brain will say things like:

“Who do you think you are?” 

“You can’t really do this..”

“Do you think you’re some sort of success?”

And truthfully, it’s hard to argue with yourself.

That’s why you have to face those excuses and roadblocks before you even start your new habit.

Ask yourself:

“What roadblocks and excuses will I likely encounter along the way?” 

Then, remove those roadblocks before they happen.  Here are a few common roadblocks and how you can prepare to face them:

  • Not enough time? Set aside the time you need, even penciling the habit into your schedule if need be.
  • Not enough equipment? Make sure you have everything you need from the start so this doesn’t come up later on.
  • Temptations? Make sure you aren’t around your temptations for the first 66 days.  

But what about excuses? Your brain will come up with seemingly endless excuses similar to the following: 

“This is too hard!”

“It’s not that important anyway!”

“I can’t do it!” 

The funny thing is, you’ll actually notice when this happens if you’re expecting it. If you prepare for your own excuses, you’ll know your brain is just trying to trick you into quitting, and you won’t listen to it!

You recognizing that your brain is trying to trick you.

Step 3: Track Your Progress

Remember when I said your habits need to be measurable? 

I said that because I believe tracking is the “secret sauce” to making a habit stick. 

Luckily, there are many apps that make tracking progress easy, such as: 

There are also other alternatives like Google Sheets or Excel that make habit tracking and measurement as easy as pie. 

But whichever tool you choose, you simply need a way to see your success, either via graph or other analytics tools. This will help you stay motivated while also stimulating your brain’s reward pathways, solidifying the habit even further. That’s a double-win!

Step 4: Do Something Every Day

No, I don’t mean you should go overboard on your goal.  If your goal is to exercise 3x/week, stick to that schedule!

But sometimes, life does indeed get in the way. There will be times when your new habit is challenged by everyday life. Expect that! 

When these situations arise, DON’T skip the habit altogether. I suggest taking the time to still do SOMETHING to reach your goal, even if it’s not to the full extent you’d planned. This helps the habit stay solidified.

For example: if your plan was to exercise for 30 minutes, even doing a quick 5-minute workout in your hotel is better for habit-building than doing nothing at all. 

This kind of consistency is essential to your success.

Oh, and remember all that fun tracking you’ll be doing? 

You can also calculate how often you meet your goals each week. Because you will have designed your week to meet your goal (including cheat days,) you should be hitting your goal 80%-100% of the time. 

But if you don’t? You’ll have the data to show you what went wrong. 

Step 5: Quit Your Excuses

You knew a little bit of inspiration would be involved in this, right? 

Even when you apply the previous steps, there will be times when you just want to quit. That’s when your inspiration should come to the rescue! 

The truth is, the only person who can create a new habit for you is YOU. But, when you combine inspiration with actionable steps to create your new habit, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t succeed. 

What’s a new habit you’d like to create? Start now. 

Want to know more? Check out my video where I dig into a whole load more detail on this topic:

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